Rising COVID-19 cases causing setback until numbers improve

The recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the nine-county trauma service area that includes Liberty County is causing a change in the occupancy limits for businesses, according to a letter from Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, to Liberty County Judge Jay Knight.

Trauma Service Area R, which includes Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton and Orange counties, has exceeded an important threshold for COVID-19 hospitalizations set in an executive order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in October 2020.

The order reads:

“In areas with high hospitalizations as defined below, any business establishment that otherwise would have a 75 percent occupancy or operating limit may operate at up to only 50 percent … Areas with high hospitalizations means any Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of the total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent.”

The order remains in effect until the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days where the percentage of those cases is less than 15 percent.

“Because the Trauma Service Area in which Liberty County is located (TSA R) has had sustained high hospitalization rates, all businesses currently operating at a 75 percent occupancy rate in Liberty County must reduce their occupancy to 50 percent effective Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020,” a statement from the County Judge reads.

Exceptions to this rule may be found on the Governor’s website, gov.texas.gov. Additionally, and due to the hospitalization rate – the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission has mandated that all bars and similar establishments in Liberty County close.

Additionally, all elective surgeries are prohibited in Trauma Service Area R until further notice.

“While the Governor and TABC both offer an appeal process for this reduction of capacity, Liberty County does not qualify. Per the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), a county must have fewer than 30 total cases of COVID-19 over the last 14 days. Liberty County has averaged approximately 21 cases per day for the past 14 days, thus far surpassing the minimum allowed,” the statement from the County Judge continues.

Since the pandemic began, Liberty County has had 2,723 total cases, of which 325 are active cases. The recovered cases number at 2,320 while the number of deaths is 78.

“With increasing case numbers and high regional hospitalization rates, Liberty County residents are encouraged to be mindful when making decisions regarding their own health and safety.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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